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Official Review by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
FirstEnergy Park in Lakewood, New Jersey has been attracting fans since it opened in 2001. The Lakewood BlueClaws of the Single A South Atlantic League have become a staple in the Jersey Shore area. The 8,000-seat facility cost $20 million to construct and is the only minor league stadium in the state that features a wraparound concourse.The team has been known to attract patrons well over the 8,000 mark on several occasions, including a robust record crowd of 13,003 on August 26, 2002.
The energy and excitement can be found in multiple areas from the center field Coors Light WRAT Trap cantina on Thursday nights, the various appearances of former major leaguers and other entertainers, and the between inning gimmicks that include races featuring a pork roll, egg, and cheese, and eye balls. However, it might just be the cleanliness of the stadium and the friendliness of the staff that keeps people from returning year after year to Lakewood.
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There is quite an array of delicious food items served at FirstEnergy Park that includes typical ballpark fare, local delicacies, and imaginative assortments. You might be best off looking over your options before making a decision, but then again, you may want to sample a few of the tasty options the stadium has to offer.
At the BGR portable stand you can enjoy grilled burgers and top it with the local favorite pork roll, egg, and cheese. Cheesesteaks are not only offered on a submarine roll, but covered over nacho chips, and another state favorite, pizza, is sold by the slice in the Asbury Park Press Pavillion. Adjacent to Charlie's is the Tuscan Bistro that serves half rack ribs, fried feta sliders, and mahi tacos. The Meatheads Subs & Sloppys food truck offers deli sandwiches and "sloppys" (sandwiches served on rye with coleslaw and Russian dressing).
If you are in the mood for something a little different or calorie heavy, the crab cake sandwich might be the way to go. The Dog House serves hot dogs topped with mac and cheese, spicy shredded chicken, or pulled pork. They even serve a Chicago hot dog, a rarity in this part of the country.
If you are not as adventurous, you will find your standard hot dogs, burgers, peanuts, nachos, soda, and beer, but make sure you leave room for dessert. Offerings include funnel cakes, deep fried Oreos, cookie dough, or cinnamon rolls. Whatever you do, make sure you bring an appetite to FirstEnergy Park.
The atmosphere may alter depending on the night, but the team employs special theme nights throughout the week. It is Senior Night on Tuesday where the crowd is large, but not as lively as it is on Thursday nights where fans 21-years and older flock to the Coors Light WRAT Trap for $1 beers and 50 cent wings. The area can become very crowded and most in attendance may not even be aware of the game on the field.
However, each night fans can be assured to enjoy various events in between innings that include meatball tossing, ball brawling, sumo wrestling, t-shirt tossing, and the singing of Sweet Caroline during the 7th inning. The highlights are the two races that are between pork roll, egg, and cheese and another one that includes three eyeballs. The races have become staples and endured by fans.
Buster is the team's official mascot, but he is not a blueclaw crab, but a yellow fuzzy creature who entertains fans throughout the game. The stadium provides grass berm seating, tall lifeguard stand seating, and other options behind the outfield walls. The team store is quite large and has more than enough team merchandise for visitors who want a memento.
Lakewood is not one of your most happening spots in the state, but you are near many great towns at the Jersey Shore that include the boardwalks of Pt. Pleasant and Seaside Heights. Island Beach State Park provides a laid back beach setting without the boardwalk and crowd, and it has free parking on Tuesdays. You are also near Six Flags Great Adventure in nearby Jackson and the Jersey Shore Outlet off exit 100 of the Garden State Parkway.
A few nice places to savor a delicious meal in Lakewood include the Kosher Taco, Cross Mill Diner, and Red Moon Pizza and Restaurant. Surf Taco, with five locations in the area, offers both amazing tacos and spirited atmosphere.
The fans continue to impact the game day experience. Whether it is Senior Night on Tuesdays, Fireworks on Friday, or $1 beer on Thursdays, the fans in attendance enjoy their time at the game. Lakewood is only 60 miles away from its parent club in Philadelphia, which makes the chance of seeing Phillies on rehab or rising through the ranks a little bit greater than in other single A ballparks.
The parking fee went up to $5 in 2015, up from $3 the previous year, but the cost of a hot dog went down. The FirstEnergy Park is easily accessible from exit 89C or 90 from the Garden State Parkway. Leaving the stadium could get congested, but staff and the Lakewood police do an incredible job directing cars quickly out of the parking lot.
Ticket prices are $8 and $11 in advance, but increase by two dollars on game day. This practice is popular with many other minor and major league franchises throughout the country and it looks as if it is here to stay. The tickets are still a bargain with the $2 hike. The parking fee went up to $5 in 2015, up from $3 the previous year, but the cost of a hot dog went down. I guess you cannot argue with those prices.
One extra point for the Pork Roll, Egg, and Cheese race. Why not promote a food that is only eaten by people of New Jersey. Heck, they do not know what this is in New York City.
Another extra point for Thursday nights that feature 50 cent wings and $1 Coors and Yuenglings. The wings come in four different flavors and are the real deal.
One final point for the cleanliness of the stadium. It looks as shiny and new as it did during its first season in 2001.
When people ask me what the best minor league stadium is in New Jersey, the answer has been FirstEnergy Park. The stadium's layout, cleanliness, food options, and promotional nights give it a clear edge among the state's six other minor league ballparks.
Member Review by JVerlin on Jun 17, 2012
The Lakewood BlueClaws were founded in 1987 as the Fayetteville Generals, the Class-A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers. After several moves, the team has found a home in the South Atlantic League at FirstEnergy Park.
The ballpark opened in 2001 when the team moved to New Jersey and became the BlueClaws. They are currently the Class-A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies. You may not know who the future Phillies may be on this squad, but you are likely to see MLB talent and at a beautiful venue for minor league baseball.
Member Review by ballparkreviews on Aug 23, 2012
Located near the Jersey shore, the typical crowd here is that of beachgoers, meaning most people could care less about the game. They are there to eat and socialize. Still, FirstEnergy Park is a fine ballpark, especially for the Low-A South Atlantic League. It is spacious, features a full wraparound concourse, and has an exterior that is meticulously maintained. Also, the concessions here are well varied and actually pretty reasonably priced. I was able to get 3 sliders with a bag of chips for just $3.75. The Mexican stand in the right field corner serves up freshly made tacos and burritos that look tasty. The Blueclaws continue to be a great draw even after 10 years, so clearly they have figured out a great formula for success.
Member Review by sportsroadtrips on Jun 04, 2014
Good park for Low-A ball, but not as cheap as it should be. Parking is $3, tickets are $10 for GA on game day, but food has good selection and decently priced for the most part.
Love the gigantic beach chairs in the outfield, something I have never seen before. Good crowd for a morning DH, although most left after the first game.
Member Review by noahmazzeo on Sep 24, 2014
As of most MILB ballparks entertainment is the key to success. They are the single-a affiliate of PHI and have very nice facilities. I would definitely recommend attending a claws game. They are a lot of fun!!
1091 River Ave
Lakewood, NJ 08701
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